ISSA Chapter 17: Lifespan Populations
ISSA Chapter 17: Lifespan Populations 1

Chapter Goals:

  • Explain the effective exercise methods for youth based on their age and development stage.
  • List the common fitness-related health considerations for older adults.
  • Be able to describe the effective elements of fitness for senior populations.
  • Be able to describe exercise and fitness options for women during pregnancy.
  • Discuss adaptive fitness and how a fitness professional can make fitness more accessible.

Exercise and Youth

In many cases, children are naturally active but can still benefit from regular exercise.

Active children may handle childhood physical and emotional challenges, have fewer physical injuries as their bodies grow, and may sleep better, supporting healthy development.

Recent research has found these alarming conclusions regarding exercise and youth:

  • Childhood obesity rates have tripled throughout the world since the 70s.
  • 17 percent of children aged 6 – 11 are obese in the US.
  • Over 21 percent of adolescents aged 12 – 19 are obese in the US.
  • Over 5 percent of American adolescents meet sleep, exercise, and screen time recommendations.
  • Only 3 in 10 children and 1 in 10 adolescents meet their daily activity and screen time recommendations.
  • 30 percent of children and 50 percent of adolescents don’t meet the recommendations for either physical activity or screen time.

Children with excess body fat may develop complications like hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, cancer, sleep apnea, and depression or other mental disorders.

Motor skills are the ability to learn and manage the process of moving the body in a coordinated way.

In healthy kids, socialization and play opportunities help children develop these motor skills.

Children that are obese may become victims of social stigmatization, discrimination, and bullying.

Benefits of Exercise

Children that participate in physical fitness programs have higher self-concepts than those who are inactive.

Children who participate in aerobic exercise programs have the potential to increase their self-efficacy, creativity, self-esteem, internal locus of control, test scores, and classroom behavior.

Adolescents who follow a muscular strength program benefit from 20 – 35 percent reduced risk for premature mortality.

Physically stronger adolescents were 15 – 65 percent less likely to have psychiatric problems.

Adolescents who participate in resistance training can reduce their risk of suicide by 20 – 30 percent.

In youth, some of the benefits of cardiorespiratory training are:

  • improving heart and lung capacity and function
  • reductions in body fat
  • reductions in depression risk
  • reductions in the risk of general diseases
  • promoting healthy blood pressure

Plyometrics can have benefits for kids, like:

  • improving speed and agility
  • improving explosive power
  • improving sport-specific skills
  • reducing sports-related injuries

Flexibility training in youth can benefit in areas like:

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  • improvements in joint health and mobility
  • improvements in range of motion
  • reductions in injury risk

Childhood Development

Creating effective programs requires a strong understanding of a child and adolescent’s growth and development processes and milestones.

Children under six need to have many indoor and outdoor opportunities and interactive play with their caregivers.

Coaching children in this age group (6 and under)can be challenging, but they do learn and benefit from physical activity.

Children 6 – 10 will continue slow, steady growth until their adolescent level growth spurt.

Personal development should take emphasis on the age group of 6 – 10.

Adolescents aged 11 – 19 will have puberty and other growth spurts throughout this age.

Specialized motor skills that pertain to sports can start to be implemented in training as an adolescent.

Children have less blood volume than adults, as well as smaller airways and more soft tissue.

Children have faster rates of respiration and heart rate than adults.

Children have more surface area concerning weight than adults and less muscle mass and fat mass than adults.

Exercise and Older Adults

Senescence is the aging process, which occurs differently in every person.

Chronological age does not necessarily equate to physiological age or the actual functional capacity of the physical body.

As people age, it is very important to be able to perform the activities of daily living like bathing, cooking, walking, and standing than it is to perform a 300-pound bench press.

Fitness is often pursued to improve fitness levels and help live with less pain, improve quality of life, and maintain social and physical independence.

Exercise and Chronic Health Conditions

Several things decline between the ages of 20 and 80, like:

  • Max oxygen uptake declines by 50 percent.
  • Max cardiac output declines by around 25 percent
  • Max heart rate declines by around 25 percent
  • Max stroke volume declines by 15 percent

The average rate of decline for adults over the age of 50 has been measured as follows:

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  • Loss of muscle mass or sarcopenia has a decline of 6 percent
  • Reductions in muscle strength or dynapenia decline by approximately 12 – 14 percent
  • Reductions in bone mass around 10 – 15 percent.

Baby boomers may suffer from additional health complications with age, like metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Osteoporosis is a skeletal condition resulting from weak and brittle bones.

These are all things that need to be looked out for when working with older populations and those with chronic conditions.

Senior Fitness Tests

The functional fitness test for seniors is a simple, easy-to-use battery of test items that assess the functional fitness of older adults.

This is a safe alternative to traditional assessments that modify the physical demands and is a good starting place for testing older clients.

There are many senior fitness assessments like the two-minute step test, chair sit and reach, and much more to learn.

Designing a Senior Fitness Program

For heart and respiratory fitness, the guidelines are:

  • 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise
  • 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise
  • or any combination of the two

For strength training, the guidelines are:

  • 1 set of 8 – 10 reps of exercises working for the major muscle groups on 2 – 3 nonconsecutive days of the week
  • The trainer can ask the client to rate exertion on a scale of 0 – 10, with a 0 equaling no movement and 10 being an all-out effort.
  • Moderate-intensity exercise needs to allow the client to do 12 – 15 reps, and high-intensity exercise should allow 8 – 10 reps.

Implementing a good amount of flexibility, balance, and mental training into senior fitness training is important.

Exercise and Pregnancy

It is often asked if pregnant women can safely exercise. The general answer is that people who were active before pregnancy should continue their regular activity unless advised against so by a physician.

Many physicians believe that prenatal exercise should be a critical part of a pregnancy, and females should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise and three days of resistance training each week.

Overall, only 1 in 4 pregnant women is estimated to meet the actual activity recommendations.

During the first trimester of pregnancy, progesterone levels increase to develop the uterus lining, which supports the fertilized egg as it implants to grow.

The hormone relaxin is also released from the corpus luteum in the ovary and eventually the placenta.

In the second trimester, the pelvis tilts forward and increases lumbar lordosis due to the baby growing and changing the center of gravity.

Hypermobility starts to happen in the joints, which is a condition of having an excess range of motion in a joint or joint.

In the third and final trimester of pregnancy, dramatic physiological changes slow down, but the increase in body weight will likely continue to affect the client.

Diastasis is possible in this trimester, and this is when there is a separation of the large abdominal muscles during pregnancy.

Special Considerations for Pregnancy

Absolute contraindications for pregnant women are things like:

  • incomplete cervix
  • persistent vaginal bleeding
  • placenta previa after 26 weeks gestation
  • premature labor
  • preeclampsia
  • uncontrolled diabetes or other systemic disorders

Some relative contraindications are:

  • severe anemia
  • extreme morbid obesity
  • extremely underweight status
  • poorly controlled hypertension, seizure disorder, or thyroid disease
  • orthopedic limitations
  • maternal cardiac arrhythmia

With obesity, a big concern can be gestational diabetes for the baby.

Program Design for Pregnant Clients

In a normal and healthy pregnancy, exercise has not been found to negatively affect fetal birth weight, size, or gestational age.

The acute training variables of frequency, resistance, tempo, and type can be modified as normal for pregnant clients.

Core training should receive some major focus for pregnant clients, as strengthening the core and pelvic floor is important for prenatal programs.

Exercise and Adaptive Fitness

Disabilities are conditions of the body or mind that make certain activities more difficult for the individual with the condition.

Impairment means the state of being diminished, weakened, or damaged, especially mentally or physically.

Activity limitation is the quantitative and qualitative measure of liability referring to difficulties experienced by an individual in executing a task or action.

Participation restrictions are problems experienced by individuals involved in life situations.

Adaptive physical fitness is the art and science of developing, implementing, and monitoring a carefully designed physical fitness program for a person with a disability.

ISSA Chapter 17: Lifespan Populations 2
ISSA Chapter 17: Lifespan Populations 3
ISSA Chapter 17: Lifespan Populations 4

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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